A group of Fremont residents has developed the draft of an “action plan” to address the number one headache of our area… flexible movement for commuters and residents alike. The Mobility Task Force has released a comprehensive look at the extensive challenges and solutions currently available to us. Due to geography and both external and internal economic pressure, our homes, workplaces, environment, resources and facilities – civic, educational, personal – are under extreme stress to address an increasing imbalance between regional economics and local environmental concerns. At the outset of creating this task force, it was evident that mobility is not a transitory problem; a limited effort would be inadequate to address and monitor the issue.
Why a previous Fremont City Council did not create an ongoing commission is not clear except for a reluctance to commit to definitive action. With this report, it appears obvious that such a commission is not only a useful tool to address an ongoing and growing issue, but necessary to employ the power of residents to focus on fundamentally complex and difficult decisions without excessive partisan political interference.
The Mobility Action Plan takes a realistic look at area movement patterns and admits that a downward trajectory of mobility is not only possible, but in progress. Along with a gloomy look at what is occurring, there are signs of hope and, at least, some realistic suggestions that address regional and state pressure exacerbating the problems. Top issue of concern is an imbalance between job and housing growth. Development of large employer campuses with concomitant satellite business growth far outstrips the capacity of housing developers. Not only does this create unrealistic demand for workers but mega-companies can lay off large groups of employees on a moment’s notice. Housing, however, does not respond in this manner.
It is necessary to address traffic concerns with Vision Zero plans, app controls, safe routes to school and signal modification, but the primary cause for mobility problems must be addressed… employment vs. housing. The Plan addresses key accommodations such as traffic signals, school safety and Developer Transportation Demand Management Plans but, even with all of this, if fully funded, cannot substitute for key land management practices that are critical to success:
- More housing closer to jobs in Silicon Valley
- Limit new job growth in Silicon Valley cities with a significantly unbalanced level of jobs
- Increased amount of affordable housing throughout Bay Area
- Encourage new job growth closer to available housing and transit
Effective land use is central to controlling an unacceptable pattern of regional and state macroeconomics that ignores impacts at the local level.
Just as Fremont touts the success of its “data-driven” Vision Zero program to reduce the incidence of major traffic crashes, so too should a regional approach pay attention to information that may argue for better land use management practices by Silicon Valley megafirms that are the source of the mobility problem. As far as economic power can take us, these are the responsible parties that need to bear the burden of funding shortfalls. Sending anonymous buses to entice workers to live in adjacent cities is not enough. The economic and environmental impact of these folks is underestimated, creating an underclass of drones that crowd together in ill-suited housing, the antithesis of affordable housing and ideals of Transit Oriented Development. What results is the modern equivalent of crowded, tenement housing: acceptable on the outside, but rotten within.
The Mobility Action Plan calls for “…an annual Fremont Mobility Summit with participation from Fremont’s representatives from regional, state, and Federal agencies to facilitate collaboration, and review current issues, ideas, and priorities.” This is not the time for fear and blind obedience to money interests, rather a search for bold ideas, new directions and decisive action to curb the influence of mega-firms. A Mobility Task Force was a good first step; it’s time to move on to the next stage and employ common sense to define our future.